29 September 2009

Homemade Apple Cider

I love the fall. It's my favorite season by far. It's the time of boyfriend (or I guess husband) hoodies, college football, and cider mills. In Texas, the changing of the season means almost nothing. The temperatures dipped into a 60s last, which was a huge respite from the heat, but the extended forecast shows highs in the upper 80s to 90s, meaning that the only place to wear a hoodie is in my over-air conditioned office. The excessive heat means that apples are ill-suited to grow and the closest cider mill is in Lubbock, TX, a mere seven hours by car. Considering what it would cost in gas, I decided that it would be a lot cheaper to just make my own cider.

The term "cider" isn't strictly regulated by the USDA, but generally apple cider is the raw, unfiltered juice from apples, whereas apple juice is the cooked, strained juice. It turns out that cider tastes like apples and apple juice tastes like an apple-y byproduct. Since it's not actually regulated, some unscrupulous companies change the name of their product to "apple cider" when the fall season hits, but that doesn't even come close to the greatness that a fresh apple cider can bring.

The only ingredient you need for cider is apples. I used a random mix, based on the cheapest ones I could find at Whole Foods, but in general, the idea is to balance tart and sweet to get a pan-apple flavor that has a wonderful tangy finish.

homemade apple cider

apple corer
food processor
fine mesh strainer

wash all the apples and pat dry. remove the core with the corer, but be sure to leave the skins on.

place apples in the food processor and turn it on until it looks like apple sauce. call this a "mash"

Now is the point where most recipes will tell you to put the mash through a cider press. That would be super awesome to have if they weren't 250 bucks for the basic model. I experimented with a few ways of doing it and the best solution I had was to run it through a fine mesh strainer. I used my chinois and pestle to force the juices out, but it really doesn't get *all* the juice out. For the 11ish lbs of apples that I used I probably could have gotten ~3/4 of a gallon or so of cider, but I only ended up with 2 quarts.

There are other options besides the strainer and they have their pros and cons. I've never used one, but I'm guessing that a food mill lined with cheesecloth would work okay. I also experimented with lining a potato ricer with cheesecloth, which works really well, but you can only do small batches. It gets the juice out better than the strainer+pestle, but it definitely will take a whole lot longer (and you'll spend a fortune on the cheesecloth!).

So now, what does one do with the juiced mash? Compost it!

27 September 2009

chocolate+food coloring+... = cake?

I am the anti-Texan. This isn't really surprising to anyone. I find that 50 degrees is an optimal time to bring out the shorts, rather than the night time average temperature in the dead of winter. I enjoy baseball more than football and I voted unlike most of Texas (with the exception of Austin, of course). That being said, I have never tried red velvet cake. In fact, I had never really seen red velvet cake until I made it myself, and let me tell you, it was good... according to everyone else. I never tried it.

You see, I hate chocolate. Well, hate is a strong word. I dislike chocolate because it tastes bitter to me and why would anyone want to ruin a perfectly good cake with it? Furthermore, I hate food coloring. I hate food coloring so much that I can't eat sweet and sour chicken from Chinese places due to the bright red sauce. chocolate+food coloring = my nightmare cake. However, it was a friend's birthday and at her request I made red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting for her party.

Red Velvet Cake (adapted from Joy of Baking)

2.5 c cake flour, sifted*
4 T Dutch processed cocoa powder, sifted
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 stick butter, room temperature
1.5 c sugar
1 c buttermilk
1 T red food coloring (if you must)
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white vinegar

Set oven to 350. In the bowl of your mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to evenly distribute the CP, BS, and NaCl. Whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and the vinegar. Add to the butter and mix to combine. Combine the buttermilk and food coloring and stir to evenly distribute the red dye. It's probably going to look crazy gross. Alternate adding in the flour mix and the buttermilk mix in 3 batches. Keep the mixer on stir and be sure to not overmix. Pour into parchment lined cake pans that have also been sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until you can cleanly remove a toothpick from the center.

*I measured the flour first, then sifted. According to the website, you're supposed to sift then measure. Oops. The cake turned out fine. Do as you please.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
8 oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 c heavy cream

cream together the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese. Add in the vanilla extract and powdered sugar and beat together until combined. Whip the heavy cream until just past stiff peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mix until combined. Try to not eat this all with a spoon right away.

Since I'm not crazy rich, I only have one stand mixer and so I beat the cream cheese with the stand mixer and used my immersion blender for the heavy cream. It worked surprisingly well. If you don't have an immerison blender, then you can use hand beaters, which would also work well.

19 September 2009

My problems with ∫Fdt control*

When I want something, I want it badly and I want it now. This is how Colby and I found ourselves engaged after three official (plus three unofficial) months together and then married less than a year after that. This is also how we ended up with a brand new car and a monthly car payment that makes my head spin. These gotta have it NOW urges aren't usually a bad thing, though. Being married (aka playing house) has been wonderful and my new car isn't plotting to kill me, but occasionally it backfires. For instance, right now I'm eating a pomegranate that I *had* to have from Central Market and I can tell you that it is definitely not pomegranate season.

For the most part, my urges are reasonable and are things that I was planning on doing/saying/getting at some point anyway. This latest impulse buy, however, is a big one and is forcing me to rename my blog. For the past two years Destroying my Apartment One Recipe At a Time was my place to chronicle my kitchen adventures in the first apartment I ever lived in and in the apartment that I now share with my husband. The title will be inaccurate within a month, so I'm changing the name of my blog to Kitschn Calamities because we bought a house.

After months of watching House Hunters and Property Virgins on HGTV, Colby developed a crush on Sandra Rinomato and I decided that I wanted my own place to decorate. Colby had wanted a house from the get-go, but we decided to save up some for a down payment and take advantage of the $8000 tax credit. So stay tuned for house updates, as our role as homeowners will take us interestingly close to the world of adulthood.

*I made a physics joke. ∫Fdt is impulse.

11 September 2009

Chai I Scream (in pain from the lactose)

I think that my moderate lactose intolerance has helped me over the years. For instance, I would never know the wonders of pizza without cheese if it weren't for the subsequent pain hours later; however, that is not to say that I avoid all dairy products. I am in love with cheese even though it isn't very nice to me. That being said, without the fetal-position-inducing cramps, I'm pretty sure that I would weigh 300000 pounds because I just can't help myself, especially not when it comes to homemade ice cream. I've been meaning to try to come up with a good chai ice cream and I was happy to find this recipe from Oregon Chai.

Vanilla Chai Ice Cream (adapted from Oregon Chai)

2 c heavy cream
2/3 c vanilla sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
6 egg yolks
3/4 c whole milk
1 1/2 c Oregon Chai concentrate (I used the decaffeinated because that's all I could find)

heat heavy cream, vanilla sugar, and vanilla beans+seeds over medium heat until just simmering and then remove from heat. While the cream is heating, whisk the eggs until they lighten a bit in color. Temper in the simmering liquid a whiskful at a time until about 1/3 of the cream is incorporated to the eggs. Whisk the eggs back to the cream and place over low heat, whisking continually. Heat until the mixture thickens. (The recipe says recommends that you bring it up to 160 deg.) Strain and then mix in the whole milk and tea. Cover and refrigerate for 4ish hours (or until the mix is cold). Make in your ice cream making according to manufacturer's instructions.

By the way, don't throw away that vanilla bean! Rinse off the milky bits and then plunge it into a container of sugar. In a couple days, you'll have vanilla sugar which is good on just about anything sweet!

07 September 2009

Recipe for Disaster

Take 1 part sleep deprivation and 2 parts clumsy and shake over concrete. Pour all over the sidewalk, rip a pair of leggings at the knee and call it Disaster on Cement or What Happens to Julie When She Should Be Sleeping Instead of Running. It should look something like this: Warning, not for the squeamish.

I've been running with a few people over the past couple of weeks. Two of them (Irina and Theresa) are training for the Ragnar Relay from San Antonio to Austin and I'd just like to be less fat. This morning I went to bed at 6 AM because I couldn't sleep and woke up at 10 to go running. This was a mistake. About 5 minutes into our run, I tripped over a raised piece of cement and ended up taking the skin off of a significant portion of my knee. Whoops. Fortunately I was in good hands and we went back to Theresa's house and cleaned and bandaged it. After I got back home, I was pretty convinced that I needed to go to the hospital to make sure that I got all the dirt out, but decided to call my Dad first. Colby sat there rolling his eyes at me as my Dad told me to just wash it out and put some Betadine on it and cover it with gauze and I began to miss my Mom more accutely than I have in quite some time.

You see, we used to have Betadine swabs all over the house along with gauze and alcohol swabs and so she could be at home and administer IV medication and injections. And it wasn't just the mention of betadine that reminded me of her, but immediately after I fell, I wracked my brain to see if I knew any people in the medical field to talk to about this and she was the first (and only) person I came up with which wouldn't quite do. It's funny how grief sneaks up on you like that, but it does and there isn't much to do about it.

So $31 worth of medical supplies later (hey, betadine is expensive and apparently so are gauze pads), my knee is bandaged up and I'm out a pair of leggings.